Maine Journal, Part IV

Moosehead Lake near Greenville, Maine (Dreamstime)


Editor’s Note: In the current issue of National Review, we have a piece by Jay Nordlinger called “The State of Maine: Not all lobster bibs and brisk swims.” This “Maine Journal” in his Impromptus is a supplement to the piece. For Parts I, II, and III of the journal, go here, here, and here. It concludes today.

I have a friend who grew up in South Dakota. For many years, she has spent summers in Maine, because her husband has a family home here. What I mean is, there is a home in her husband’s family. They use it. About a year ago, my friend told me something very interesting:

“I love South Dakota, because you can see everything. There are no trees. The sky is huge. You can see for miles. In Maine, you can’t see anything. There are trees everywhere. You just can’t see anything.”

Her statement sort of charmed me, theoretically. But now, driving through Maine, I can see she is right: Unless you’re on the coast, I guess, you can’t see anything. There is no such thing as a “scenic drive,” that I can find. On either side of the road, there is a wall of pine trees. You can’t get a vista — a scenic view. There is much beauty behind the trees, I know. But on the road — the walls of trees.

Maine has a distinctive smell, I think — a wonderful smell. (I’m not talking about the mills.) I remember it from earlier days. Must be the pine trees. Such a fresh smell. (And it’s true that a paper mill is just about the worst smell in the world.) (At least it used to be that way. I can’t vouch for now.)

I am looking out at a lake. The waves are lapping, but everything is pretty much still. The loons are calling loonily. It’s like a parody of Maine (as I said about something in Part I of this journal). An Epcot Maine. An almost unreal, mythical Maine. But it’s very much real, and perfect.

Tucker Carlson has a number of his Daily Caller staff with him. He takes them around the lake in a boat. He plays cards with them. They soak it up. This is exactly what our guy, Bill Buckley, did. (I mean, National Review’s guy.) The boat, the cards, etc.

I arrive in L-A — Lewiston-Auburn, the twin cities. I know there are some pretty rough neighborhoods. Yesterday in Portland, I asked a friend, “Should I get out of the car? Is it safe enough in those neighborhoods?” Yes, he said. “It’s still Maine.”

I love that sentence: “It’s still Maine.”

There is a cathedral. (I don’t know if it’s technically a cathedral. It looks like one to me.) It’s the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. I think, “The Lewiston Notre Dame.” Reminds me of that Parisian landmark.

I see onion domes. What, is this Moscow? No, I’m looking at the Kora Temple, a Masonic building.

This is so French — so Maine. They don’t have a Coliseum. They have a Colisée. Later, I read that it’s a “multi-purpose arena.”

Lewiston has a Strawberry Avenue. Is that a great street name or what? Strawberry Avenue. Reminds me of this famous phrase (which Bill Buckley loved): “Toasted Suzie is my ice cream.”

I meet some lovely Thai people, who have a restaurant. Will they melt in this pot? Will their children?